Person:William Alford (1)

m. About 1784
  1. Benedict Alford1786 - 1864
  2. Ammi Alford1791 - 1862
  3. William AlfordAbout 1794 - 1849
m. 19 Jan 1830
  1. Eliza Jane Alford1830 - 1901
  2. George Washington Alford1831 - 1863
  3. Robert McCullough Alford1833 - 1853
  4. Mary Maria Alford1834 - 1848
  5. Abigail Hannah Alford1836 - 1918
  6. Sara Anna Alford1837 - 1917
  7. Idena A. Alford1839 - 1839
  8. William Henry Harrison Alford1840 - 1924
  9. Frances G. Alford1841 - 1848
  10. Esther Louisa Alford1842 - 1864
  11. Martha A. Alford1843 - 1853
  12. Freelace Maria Alford1844 - 1848
  13. Helen Caroline Alford1847 - 1924
  14. Joseph Franklin Alford1849 - 1849
Facts and Events
Name William Alford
Gender Male
Birth? About 1794 Georgia, Franklin, Vermont, United StatesFamily was living in Georgia at the time of the 1790 Federal Census.
Marriage 19 Jan 1830 Waterloo, Ontario, Canadato Martha Ann McCullough
Death[1] 4 Aug 1849 Alamo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United States
Burial[1] Alamo, Kalamazoo, Michigan, United StatesGreen Bower Cemetery

Just a few years ago the descendants of William Alford did not know his origins or parentage. It was a great mystery, and some creative stories were generated to satisfy the need to know.

Many of the family believed he was the son of Seth Alvord and Deborah Crouch, and was born in Colerain, Massachusetts. A search has not only turned up no substantiation of this, but much has come to light to contradict it. Seth and Debora did have a son William, who was born in 1795 and settled in Green Bay, Wisconsin as a doctor. So, the facts don't fit. Our William never had medical training; he was a farmer.

Though the location of William’s and his wife Martha’s tombstones are known, the date of birth on William’s of 1799 is in question. Jack Adams, like myself a great great grandson of William Alford, relates the following: "I was told that this stone was put up sixty years after William died, but I'm not sure about that. It is the only confirmation of his date of [birth] that might be correct."

When he was married on 19 Jan, 1830 to Martha McCullough, William listed himself as 29 years of age. [Gayle Lynn Griffin and Jack Adams] But that age does not appear to be true. It’s likely that William’s birth date is closer to 1796, or even earlier. His grandson was told he was 55 when he died, if so his year of birth is 1794. His two siblings, Benedict and Ammi, were born in 1786 and 1791. Besides, in 1794 William's mother would have been only 30.

The McCulloughs had just immigrated from Ireland to Canada in 1828.

Jack Adams wrote: “William Alford has always been an enigma to all that have tried to figure out who his parents were, or where he came from. My grandfather, in an insurance application stated that he, William, died in 1849 of pneumonia. It has been suggested that he was other than Caucasian, a great uncle of mine who I corresponded with many years ago said that William's mother was a Deborah Crouch and was half Mohegan, but Uncle Jim was totally illiterate and what info he gave me was from memory. His wife did all his writing for him. In any case we never found anything to substantiate this idea.”

Now we believe we have discovered the truth about William's parents, though admittedly the evidence is mostly circumstantial. We know from stories that have come down through the family that William’s father was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. And we know that William himself was in the War of 1812 and that he enlisted in a New York infantry regiment. A candidate for William’s father is Benedict Alford, who was born in 1757 in Windsor, Connecticut and died in Troy, Ohio in 1838. This Benedict lived for a time in Vermont, where he served as a private and later a sergeant in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont militia regiments during the Revolution. By the early 1800s the family had moved on to New York, first to Willsboro (just across Lake Champlain from Burlington, Vermont), and a few years later further west to Genesee. So the dates, locations and circumstances are right. Benedict and his wife, Huldah, have several sons. Benedict and Ammi are well documented, but a third son is not specifically named. This mysterious third son and Ammi also lose touch with the family. Benedict and wife Huldah remain with the oldest son and they eventually move to Troy, Ohio. There Benedict applies for continuation of his veteran’s pension, and it’s in the records of those pension files that I found the key that Jack and I had been searching for.

From the Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files, Vol. I, A-E, as abstracted by Virgil D. White (The National Historical Publishing Company, Waynesboro, TN, 1990), we find this: "Benedict [Alford], S8016, CT, MA and VT Lines, appli 22 Feb 1826 Orleans City NY aged 69, b 1757 Windsor CT, lived Williamstown MA until 1783 thence VT 2 yrs thence to Burlington VT 3 yrs thence Ferrisburg 7 yrs thence to Georgia VT 6 yrs thence to Willisborough NY [this must be Willsboro on the west bank of Lake Champlain]14 yrs thence to Cayuga Cty NY 2 yrs & had lived in Orleans Cty NY 15 yrs [must be Orleans County where Ridgeway is located], son Benedict Alford, JR. stated sol d 1839 & wid d about 1yr later, son Benedict Alford, Jr. lived in Troy OH in 1859 aged 73 & he made reference to 2 brothers one in MO & the other in Lower Canada, in 1826 sol's wife was 69 & a daughter & her 2 fatherless children & a motherless grandchild were living with sol, sol's bro George Alford lived Monroe City, MI in 1826." (pages 30 and 31)

In fact the brother, Ammi, Benedict Jr. thought had moved on to Missouri had instead returned to Vermont and raised a family there. It’s the brother that had gone on to Canada [Ontario] that is of interest here. At the end of the War of 1812, William, along with other Americans, settled in the northern portion of Ontario. Now all the pieces fall neatly into place. It’s circumstantial, so it’s not proven, but it’s believable and likely that William is the missing third son referred to by brother Benedict in the pension files.

WAR OF 1812
According to my grandfather (Irwin S Gunn) and to Jack Adams, William fought in the War of 1812, though he would only have been about 16 then. He was wounded at the Battle of Detroit, and he played the same fife his father used at the surrender of Cornwallis in the Battle of Yorktown, in the Fife and Drum Corps, during the Revolutionary War. Jack believes William may have been taken prisoner and held as a POW in Ontario. Is this true, or just distorted stories that families sometimes hand down about their ancestors? I think it may be mostly true. (William’s father was, in fact, in several New England militias during the Revolution, but it seems unlikely he was at the Battle of Yorktown.)

In fact, a “William Alford was a Private in a Company commanded by Captain Weber, which was part of the New York Infantry Regiment commanded by Colonel Thomas B. Benedict during the War of 1812.” (John K. Adams of Ypsilanti, MI, in a letter to Irwin Simpson Gunn dated 20 Nov 1959). William entered service in the War of 1812 in Frankfort, Herkimer County, New York, in 1812.

Records from Record Group 93 M246 in the National Archives show a William Gunn in the War of 1812, in the 46th Regiment (Coxe's) New York Militia. But there was indeed a Company commanded by Captain Jacob P. Weber (Roll Box 221, Roll-Exct 602) and a NY Infantry Regiment commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas B. Benedict (Benedict's Regiment Roll Box 15 Roll-Exct 602).

In the 1820's William’s name appears in Belleville, Ontario, Canada: "Among the builders up of Belleville and the neighborhood were: Wm. Alford, John Allen, Geo. Montgomery......"

Benedict Alford (who is probably William's father) and Benedict's half-brother Ashley were engaged in land speculation in Lower Canada (Ontario) in 1790s. There is documentary evidence of this. In 1792 Benedict was the 11th of 40 petitioners for land in York, Lower Canada, Litchfield Township, "10 Miles square (1200 acres each) Borded on the south by Grand River and on the north ....; on the West vacant Crown lands." [Sealed 1 Nov 1792, Alured Clark, Lt. Gov & Commander in Chief, Lower Canada]. Given this circumstance, the fact that William ended up owning and developing land in Upper Canada 20 or 30 years later might not be so surprising.

William is listed in the Eramosa Township Census of 1828 (Reel M7746) as having 22 acres cultivated and 100 acres uncultivated. He is listed in the 1832 census as head of a household with 1 male over the age of 16, 1 male under 16, 1 female over 16 and another female under 16. He is listed in the 1833 census with 15 acres cultivated and 80 acres uncultivated, and as head of a household with 1 male over the age of 16, 2 males under 16, 1 female over 16 and another female under 16. He is listed in the 1837 census as head of a household with 1 male over the age of 16, 2 males under 16, 1 female over 16 and 3 females under 16.

From John "Jack" K. Adams (of Ypsilanti, MI) in a letter to Irwin Simpson Gunn dated November 1959: William first shows up "in Eramosa Township, Ontario (that's near Guelph) on June 30, 1827, at which time he purchased 100 acres of land [on lot 17, 2nd concession] from a Robert MacCormack for the sum of 38 pounds (English) and took possession shortly thereafter. On Jan. 19, 1830 he married Martha McCullough, daughter of Patrick and Mary (Hamilton) McCullough.” Martha was not quite 14 years old when they were married; William was about 20 years older!

Leona Hinds, who corresponded with Jack Adams in 1959/60, notes that William “paid McCormick the full price in cash and never at any time had a mortgage on his place [and that] implies that he came with considerable capital in his pocket and it is an established fact that about the only way he could get cash was to deal in improved lands.” We will probably never know quite what the circumstances were.

“William Alford lived on, and improved his farm until March 12, 1838, at which time he sold it for 125 pounds to his sister-in-law. In the year 1837 a man named William Lyon McKensie, an ancestor of Mackensie King, Prime Minister of Canada not very long ago, instigated an armed rebellion against the Provincial Government of Canada, and the hot-bed of this affair was in Eramosa, one of the leaders was a neighbor of William, a man named Benham, the Rebellion took place in 1837, but the Treason trials were not held until March of 1838, as it was nearly all got off with suspended sentences and the like [though two were hanged], and the reforms that McKensie was trying to get were eventually made a part of Canadian law, and the name McKensie is looked upon there about the same way we look at Lincoln's, or Washington, although not nationally.”

“Now, William sold his farm to Martha's brother James's wife, Ann (Loree) McCullough just four days after the trials were held, and what further makes us believe that he was forced to leave the country was the fact that there was no effort made to register the deed in Ann's name until 1853. We have tried, without success, to link William directly with the Rebellion, but apparently he wasn't a "wanted" man, but evidently felt the need to go elsewhere, else why would he leave a farm he had improved on for 11 years, not to mention that he sold it for less than the market price for the times. Also selling it within the family, and not making a record of the sale is indicative of some sort of shady deal. You said that they settled in Alamo, which they undoubtedly did, but there is no record of William owning any land in Kazoo [Kalamazoo] County between 1838 and 1849, at which time he died. [Note: In fact, William and Martha purchased 80 acres in Section 14 of Kalamazoo County on 7 May, 1838. It was sold after William's death in 1849.] … George W., and Abigail were born in Guelph Township, Canada, your Mother [Helen Caroline Alford] was born in Kalamazoo (or vicinity).”

William may have felt the need to leave Canada simply because public opinion had turned against the Reformers and also against many of the American settlers because the United States gave asylum to rebels who made their way to the border.

Information on the Rebellion of 1837 can be found at this web site: [[2]]. Or just do a search for 'Rebellion of 1837' and you'll get several informative sites.

Documents show that in March, 1836, William and Martha Alford applied their signatures to a deed in which they turned over their lands and premises to Ann McCullough, the wife of Martha's brother, James. William placed his wife and his six small children in an open sleigh and began a long, cold and dangerous journey during which he knew they could not stop more than temporarily before crossing the border into Michigan. The deed of sale had been drawn privately among the parties concerned, witnessed by old friends of trust and no effort was made to register the deed of new ownership by Ann McCullough.

Martha and William settled in Alamo, Michigan, in 1838. The first land office in Kalamazoo had opened in 1834 and by 1838 sales were booming. A road (primitive and nearly impassable in winter or after rains) had been built from Detroit to Kalamazoo in the 1830s and even a railroad started by 1837 (The Erie and Kalamazoo Line) to link Lake Erie and the navigable Kalamazoo River. So southwestern Michigan was already surveyed and was opening up to settlement in those years.

William is listed in the "History of Kalamazoo" as a land owner on May 7, 1838, but this date probably refers to the date he and his family arrived in Kalamazoo. He actually purchased 80 acres on October 10, 1840 and listed his residence as Hilton County, Ontario, Canada.

The years passed by and sister-in-law Ann died in 1848, meanwhile Martha in Michigan had buried three of her remaining children. On August 4 of the following year Martha buried her husband, William Alford, while in Eramosa her brother, James, buried her father, Patrick.

Upon his death William’s property was probated and actual title to the property was transferred to Martha.

Now a widow, Martha gave birth to a baby, Joseph Franklin, who did not survive long. Fortunately, a few years later she found a more secure future in marriage to John W. Stewart in July of 1852. It’s interesting to note that only then did her brother James move to register the deed of the land in Eramosa and secure the old William Alford farm for himself and his family. [Findlay Weaver from material gathered by Leone Hinds - Mercury]

In a deposition dated 13 July, 1853, Martha makes the following statements: "She was the widow of William Alford deceased who was a private in the Company Commanded by Captain Weber and subsequently by Lieutenant Bucklee in the (large blank space here) Regiment of New York Militia Commanded by Col Sherman B. Benedict of Ogdensburg, New York, in the war with Great Britain declared by the United States on the 10th day of June 1812. That her said husband served as a volunteer for the run of six months and that he entered at Frankfort, near Utica in the month of June 1812 and continued in actual service until discharged honorably at Ogdensburgh on or about the 7th day of January 1813. And this deponent further says that her husband William Alford also served as a substitute as she has good reason to believe.

As will appear by the Muster Roll of the said Company of New York Militia the Certificate of his discharge being lost.

She further states that she was married to the said William Alford on the 19th day of January 1830 in the Township of Guelph in the County of Waterloo Upper Canada."

Source: Probate Papers of William Alford March 1854

MARTHA’S OBITUARY: 19 April 1909
"When scarcely 14 years of age she was united in marriage to William Alford, a soldier of the war of 1812, and a member of a New York regiment. To them were born fourteen children. In 1838 they came to Michigan and settled in Alamo, where they endured all the privations of pioneer life."

After the list of children surviving Martha McCullough it is written: "The interment was in the Northeast Alamo cemetery, beside the husband of her youth and close to all of her children with the exception of one, George Alford, who has slept in a soldier's grave in the sunny south for more than 40 years."

  1. 1.0 1.1 Find A Grave, Primary quality.

    Image of William's tombstone: [[1]]
    This stone was placed here 60 or more years after William's death. The year of birth on the stone is almost certainly not correct.

  2.   Land Records, Primary quality.

    Land Record for William Alford in Eramosa, Canada on June 30, 1827; Lot 17, 2nd con.
    Land Transaction between William Alford, Martha Alford, and Ann McCullough on March 12, 1838; Lot 17, 2nd con.
    Land Records for William Alford in Kalamazoo, Mich on 10/10/1840 Document #23543 80 Acres, Section 14

  3.   History of Kalamazoo County, 293, 1880, Secondary quality.

    "William Alford, May 7, 1838"
    Durant, Samuel W. comp., Philadelphia: Everts & Abbott.